Saturday, 11 October 2008

Where Grammars of Thought Fail - Part One

The interface of the known and unknown (and I'm not quoting Mr Rumsfeldt)... what was it Wittgenstein said? Something like: "and that we cannot speak of, let us be silent" or something. I'm no expert (sirens, flashing lights, warning) but I take him to mean that we can only think of concepts that are speakable, that have a grammatical coherence that matches the way our brains develop with language and thought. We cannot think the unthinkable, just as we cannot speak the unsayable, and also we can't think the unsayable nor speak the unthinkable, etc, etc, etc, yawn.

However, we can map the shape of the silence, the unthinkable, even if we cannot penetrate it. The breakdown of thought, of structure, of the logos - that point where incoherence begins - we feel tentatively like fumbling blind men and women, trying to orient ourselves, trying to gauge the unknown. Of course the unknown depends on the individual. An impoverished logos is tied to a greater heart of darkness, field of silence, blank space, (insert metaphor of choice here: daytime telly).

What value can we slurp from that recognition of the area of silence, of unthought? First, all words are a form of lying. They simplify reality. The point where words break apart is the boundary where our words fail us: our lies fail us. It is the edge of a kind of truth because it is unsayable. It puts its hand over our mouths and stops our lies. It teaches us our limits - it is our limit. I find a reassurance in knowing that.


actionreplay said...

Actually I have always assumed that Wittgenstein quote to be a nice way of saying "Don't rabbit on about things you know nothing about"...

Abysmal Musings said...

Ouch! :-)